EN 283 Home Page



Class meets Monday and Wednesday from 5:30-6:45 in Stevenson 250H

Lori Ostergaard
Stevenson 414A

Office Hours

I will keep office hours in Stevenson 414A on Monday and Wednesday from 4:00-5:30, but you may also meet with me by appointment. Please note that I have many other responsibilities in the English department, so while I am almost always on campus, I am not always in my office. If you need to meet with me during a time other than my office hours and if you haven't made an appointment, I will make every effort to accomodate you, but the odds are quite good that I may not be able to give you as much time as you need.

From the Catalogue

Rhetorical Theory and Applications Critical and analytical examiniation of the nature and historical development of rhetorical theory and its applications to contemporary discourse.

From Your Instructor

The objectives of this course are fairly simple: we will investigate the various components that go into persuading a particular group of people at a particular time to do a particular thing. However, over the course of the semester you'll understand that "persuading particular people to do particular things" is an extremely broad and interesting statement. It includes the range from obvious things (like persuading people how to vote or which products to purchase) to more subtle things (like persuading people to like or dislike a certain character or to hold or reject certain values). As a result, we will be reading, looking at, and listening to many "texts:" articles from newspapers and magazines, junk mail, websites, film, advertisements, television programs, political blogs, excerpts from books, photographs, and so on. We will learn several strategies for rhetorical analysis and apply them to those different text.

You will thus become a rhetorician, someone who is a critical reader/analyzer of texts, using certain strategies of analysis and interpretation. You will also become a rhetor, someone adept at applying rhetorical techniques to the texts you produce.

Students in this class will

  • Recognize techniques that effective rhetors use to convince their audiences.
  • Explore/analyze/evaluate various types of "texts," including traditional print, Internet, oral, and visual texts, using rhetorical concepts, including ethos, pathos, logos, kairos, stasis, style, and so on.
  • Understand how cultural/social/political assumptions inform various texts in various situations and critique those assumptions. Develop meanings and interpretations that are not "on the surface."
  • Understand that rhetoric operates in all areas of culture, in all manner of texts, and appreciate the insights that rhetorical analysis provides.
  • Recognize that the audiences who receive a text, and the context in which that text is received, determine how the text is interpreted and what effect it has.
  • Be able to apply rhetorical strategies in producing their own persuasive texts.
  • Understand the relationship between the study of rhetoric and other aspects of English studies, including writing, literary studies, and linguistics.

Required Texts

Crowley, Sharon and Debra Hawhee. Ancient Rhetoric for Contemporary Students. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1999.

Course Pack: Rapid Print in the Basement of Old Union (pick up Tuesday)

Required Work

The Blog

Since you will be developing your skills as both rhetorician (analyzer and theorizer of texts) and rhetor, it might be useful for you to jump right in constructing and publishing your own rhetorical texts. Every week you will find a story in the local, regional, national, or international news and conduct a rhetorical analysis of how that story is being covered in/by one or more news organizations (print, television, radio, Internet). You will then post your analysis and your own persuasive argument about that story to your Internet Blog. We will create these blogs together, but you will be responsible for maintaining your blog, researching a story, analyzing that story, and writing an argument related to that story every week. Periodically throughout the semester you will also be asked to read and respond to one or more of your classmates' blogs. More on topics, possible formats, and the nuts/bolts operation of a blog later. 20%

Short papers

Throughout the course, you will work on shorter written projects that require rhetorical analysis. These projects are designed to give you some fluency with rhetorical concepts (especially central ones like ethos, pathos, logos, kairos, and commonplaces) . You'll analyze various texts related to the issue you have chosen to study for your final project. Each paper will be 3 to 5 pages long, and they will differ from the blogs not only in terms of length but also the care and polish you put into them. You will probably want these shorter papers to feed into the final project you are writing, so choose texts to analyze that are related to the issue you'll be analyzing in that final project. Descriptions of each short paper are available online. 40%

Final Project

Please see the description of the Final Project online. 20%

Exercises and Class Contributions

For both your own learning and the learning of everyone else in the class, you need to participate in every class activity. This means not only doing the reading and exercises (which may include drawing or other work) and coming to every class prepared, but also participating in discussions, group work, debates and so on. Together, exercises and class contributions will count 20% of your final grade.

Course Policies

Late Work

Assignments are due on the dates and at the times when they are due. I reserve the right not to accept, read, respond to, and/or grade any works that are not submitted on time. I also reserve the right to provide minimal feedback to late work compared to my responses to work turned in on time.


My policy is be here, end of story. Your participation in class obviously depends on your presence in class, so be prepared to come to every class. Obviously, your class contributions grade will suffer each time you miss class.

Academic Honesty

Plagiarism, cheating, or other forms of academic dishonesty will be handled through the University Student Dispute Resolution Service. Generally, you will fail any assignment on which you have cheated. I reserve the right for more substantial penalties should the situation warrant. I also expect that, as diligent English majors, you'll do the work as assigned and this warning will remain simply that, a warning.

Sharing Written Work

I may occasionally share examples of student writing in the class with other class members. I will choose only examples of successful work or works that raise an important issue that will instruct the class as a whole. As your instructor, I promise always to be respectful of such work, including when making observations about how it can be strengthened. I expect you to be respectful, too.

Social Practices

I expect a collegial atmosphere, a learning environment that is respectful of other students' time, efforts, opportunities, and opinions. Behaviors that compromise this environment, especially over a sustained period of time, will result in interventions by the instructor, potentially leading to disciplinary actions or removal from the course. Given my sense of your dedication as students and English majors, I expect this warning to be superfluous, but I did want to make clear my policy and expectations.

Any student needing to arrange a reasonable accommodation for a documented disability should contact Disability Concerns at 350 Fell Hall, 438-5853 (voice), 438-8620 (TDD).

Evaluation and Response

For each assignment you undertake, I will post a description of the assignment and a rubric or grading standards sheet to the class web page. In other words, both my expectations and my method of evaluation will be available online. We will also discuss assignments in class, so it is in your best interest not to miss any classes.

Contacting Me

The best way to reach me is via email. I will usually respond to an email inquiry much faster than to a phone message or note tacked to STV 414A. Please note that if you do leave a message on my office phone, I probably will not return your call (I don't want to have to leave messages with parents, spouses, partners, and/or roomates). So if you leave a message for either of me on the office phone, please follow that message up with an email.


Cell phones should be turned off during class time. Any other technology that might disturb the class and/or prevent you from learning/listening/contributing in class should also be turned off and put away. We're working in a computerized classroom so that we can view, analyze, and design sites as a class. While I take attendance and pass back work, you may check your email, surf, ebay, blog, play whatever games they haven't removed from the computers already, etc. But when someone in the classroom is addressing you or the class as a whole, I expect you to give that person your full, undivided attention and your absolute respect. From time to time you may stumble upon an Internet site, television show or commercial, or something else that might be relevant to the rhetorical study we are conducting. I encourage you to email me in advance (if possible) so that I can make whatever arrangements are necessary for the class to work with the text you have found. Please note that if you plan to bring in a VHS tape, I will need to reserve the VCR in advance.

Creative Commons License
These course materials
are licensed by Lori Ostergaard under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License
These course materials
are licensed by Lori Ostergaard under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.